University of St. Thomas announces $10 million donation for its two-year Dougherty college

The University of St. Thomas on Thursday announced an anonymous $10 million donation that will sustain funding for its two-year school in Minneapolis, the Dougherty Family College.

The Dougherty college opened in 2017, offering intensive support to underserved students for just $1,000 per year in tuition and fees, thanks to heavy philanthropic support.

Students take classes as a small cohort and get intensive mentoring and advising and paid internships. They’re expected to continue on to complete a bachelor’s degree, whether at St. Thomas or elsewhere.

Buffy Smith, the private college’s dean, said about 90 percent of Dougherty students are people of color and 80 percent are first-generation students from families whose low incomes qualify them for federal Pell grants.

The $10 million donation, which the university plans to match with another $10 million, will bring the Dougherty college endowment to $60 million, which should be enough to permanently cover all other costs for students besides the $1,000 a year.

“No one can ever say they got a free ride, because that’s not the case,” Smith said. “That’s empowering.”

The college was created with a large donation from investment banker Michael Dougherty.

Additional gifts from Gene and Mary Frey and the estate of entrepreneurs Marty Ryan and Richard Sterbenz are covering third- and fourth-year tuition and fees at St. Thomas for many Dougherty students who go on to enroll at the university.

The Dougherty college aims to enroll 150 new students each year but never has reached that target, averaging just 109.

It had 147 new students in fall 2019, but signups plummeted during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic before bouncing back to 115 this fall.

“We were getting ready, I believe, to meet our goal,” Smith said.Related Articles

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